UK teenagers love technology but are not making the link with engineering

To mark UK Science Week, and coinciding with National Apprenticeship Week, the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering has published the results of its Create the Future Report, a survey of ten of the world’s largest economies, which shows UK teenagers’ interest in technology (85%) is higher than the global average of 81%.

However, while 82% of UK teenagers saw engineering as integral to technological innovations, only 21% said they were interested in engineering as a career.

Lord Browne of Madingley, chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation said: “Engineering is an exciting career offering endless opportunities to create the next technological innovation and tackle the biggest issues facing the world. Sadly, it suffers from an image problem in the UK that must be reversed if we are going to attract the next generation into the field.”

Across STEM subjects, the UK teenagers’ interest outstrips that of young people in Germany, Japan and South Korea; however, specific interest in engineering fell below all the other countries surveyed.

When UK teenagers were asked what would inspire them to become an engineer the highest motivator was the opportunity to create new innovations, have an impact on society and make a difference to the world - they ranked these benefits above career opportunity, income and security and respectability.

72% of young people believe climate change and depleting energy resources are major concerns for the future, with half feeling optimistic that engineering can address these issues in the next 20 years. However, around 30% of potential engineers were put off a career in the industry as they felt an engineering degree was too hard, too expensive and that they lacked adequate funding for training.

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, the chairman of the QEPrize judging panel said: “The challenge facing the engineering community is to shift the love of tech to a love of engineering. There is no silver bullet solution to this issue, but if we work together as parents, teachers, companies, institutions and even governments, then we will see a change in attitudes and debunk the myths surrounding our profession.”